What is the Difference Between a Sociology and a Anthropology Degree?

Many people often consider a sociology degree and an anthropology degree to be nearly identical in content. While anthropology and sociology are two disciplines of social science that focus on the study of humans and their behavior within their societies, they actually differ in a number of ways. When choosing between sociology and anthropology for a college major, it’s important to understand the areas of study and career prospects for each field.

Overview of Anthropology and Sociology

Anthropology is the study of humans and their ancestors through time in terms of culture, social and environmental relations, and physical characteristics. Sociology is the study of the development, behavior, interaction, and structure of organized groups of humans at any given time period. Anthropology covers all characteristics of humanity, including evolutionary origins and physiology, while sociology focuses more on social relations.


Anthropology is, at its core, the study of humans. Viewpoints based on anthropology are influenced by observing cross-cultural differences in communication styles, cultural beliefs, and social institutions. On the other hand, sociology is the study of social change, social life, and the social consequences and causes of human behavior. Sociological thinking mainly involves the relationships between people or, more specifically, how people relate to religion, media, culture, cities, economies, technologies, and organizations.

Areas of Study

A traditional anthropology degree includes the study of cultural history, rituals and myths, cross-cultural issues, and human evolution. Areas of specialization within the field of anthropology include archaeological, physical, linguistic, and sociocultural anthropology. Archaeological anthropology is the study of human history through its artifacts such as tools and pieces of pottery. Physical anthropology examines the evolution of humans and primates, while linguistic anthropology studies the history of human communication. Finally, sociocultural anthropology is the study of culture that places a central focus on social organization and kinship.

A traditional sociology degree includes the study of ethnicity, gender, race, culture, criminology, and social problems. Those pursuing a degree in this field may often choose from one of many specializations, including crime, sex and gender, ethnicity, and economics. Other areas of focus include aging, health, urban communities, and families.

Comparing the availability of the two degrees, sociology appears to be more popular in the U.S. as more than 1,000 post-secondary universities offer degrees in sociology. On the other hand, only approximately 400 colleges provide programs in anthropology.

Career Outlooks

Those who earn anthropology degrees may continue to further their education and earn a doctoral degree in the field. They may seek positions in which research is emphasized, including employment in anthropology departments, museums, and campus ethnic centers. Anthropologists may also work in international and government agencies, in environmental projects, and at nonprofit associations and healthcare centers. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), anthropologists earned an average yearly salary of $63,190, or $30.38 per hour, in 2016.

Sociology majors can also pursue graduate study in sociology, psychology, political science, and economics. Those who graduate with this degree may also become lawyers and work in human resources, advertising, education, criminal justice, and for the government. The BLS indicates that the average annual salary of a sociologist was $79,750, or $38.34 per hour, in 2016.

Related Resource: Best Top 10 Online Sociology Degree Programs

Students who have an interest in researching civilizations as they relate to social hierarchies should consider degrees in either sociology or anthropology. However, when choosing to pursue either a sociology degree or an anthropology degree, keep in mind the main difference between the two social sciences, which is that anthropology focuses on culture, while sociology concentrates on society.